We ARE in Star Wars
By Matthew Behrens

The recent news that Jean Chretien appears to have had a change of heart on joining Star Wars has shocked a good many Canadians. Phone calls and faxes are, justifiably, being sent his way demanding that Canada not "join" the U.S. proposal to dominate earth from space.

But the urgent faxes and letters need to take a step forward and demand that Canada get out of space warfare to begin with.

What??? Did we hear something wrong? At this point, murmurs and gasps emerge in the public discussion. Canada? Involved? With something... bad? Isn't Bush the only bad guy around?

Given the admittedly outstanding success of the Canadian propaganda machine when it comes to the myths of Canada as upholder of democratic rights (we're the only country in the world that celebrates our secret police on T-shirts and post cards, while Muslims sit in solitary confinement in Canadian jails, subject to secret trials) and as peacemaking nation (the Canadian government is a top Pentagon contractor with a multi-billion-dollar war industry while we tell ourselves that all we are really interested in is peace), such mutterings are understandable. But asking Canada at this stage of the game not to be part of Star Wars is a bit like asking Hell's Angels not to be involved with motorcycles. Just as bikes are a central element to the biker gang identity, so is the development of space warfare an essential part of Canadian military strategy.

In October 1997, the U.S. and Canadian militaries signed a joint Statement of Intent for military space co-operation on the understanding that such an agreement to militarize the heavens "is in the mutual security and economic interests" of both countries. This followed on the 1994 "defence" white paper which allowed for research and development of space warfare.

The Canadian government's Technology Investment Strategy 2000 goes even further, declaring: "Space soon will be the fourth medium of warfare, it will not only bind all war fighting forces together but will also become strategically critical to the survival of warfighters. . . For future coalition warfare, space superiority will be fundamental."

Leading the research charge is Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), an umbrella grouping of five federally funded research facilities that include an Ottawa-based space warfare research and development facility (DREO)* which was the focus of a "Homes not Bombs" nonviolent civil disobedience action in the fall of 2001.

Two people were arrested at the facility, which was completely shut down for the day. But charges "disappeared" when it became obvious that subpoenas would be issued to the executives at DREO. It appears they would rather Canadians just watched hockey than make inquiries about the insidious work being done at their site.

Committed to "exploit the electromagnetic spectrum" for military purposes, DREO's website also boasts of its capacity to develop a diverse range of warfighting technologies. These include "Electronic Warfare, Information Warfare, Space Systems and Technologies for Defence Applications, Detection and Identification of NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] Agents."

A January 2001, Ottawa Citizen article helped clarify the meaning behind some of those heavy-handed terms when it reported, to little fanfare, that DREO is involved in a Star Wars research program called the Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector.

"This project is a key contributor to the collaborative work with the (U.S.) Ballistic Missile Defence Organization [the key U.S. government branch pursuing Star Wars]," read military research reports obtained by the Citizen. The Canadian QWIP system has "significant implications for future exploitation to support U.S. Space-based Infrared Surveillance Systems, surveillance from space and missile defence applications."

Meanwhile, the ability to station in space light-weight platforms which have the capacity to launch directed energy or laser beam weapons against terrestrial targets is a key part of the U.S. Space Command document Vision 2020, the primary inspiration for the renewed Star Wars plan.

DRDC has taken up this challenge; and its own annual report asks the burning question, "Will technology allow us to fit 70 tons of lethality [killing power] and survivability into a 20-ton package?"

Now you can see why those charges were dropped.

The DRDC 2001-2002 annual report notes that one outcome of the Canadian Defence Industrial Research program has been the development of products useful for, among other things, the Star Wars "Exo-Atmosphere Kill Vehicle." Related technology being developed in Canada, including space-based radar and use of Canada's RADARSAT-2 satellite to produce "a ground moving target indication (GMTI) capability" will "provide an improved operational picture to the war fighter." The annual report notes, without any sense of irony, that "there is a high level of U.S. interest in the Space-Based Radar GMTI Project," as the employment of such sensor technology is key to any space warfare capacity.

DREO also hosted a visit in November 2000 from leading U.S. Star Wars cheerleader Dr. Hans Mark, who, according to a DREO press release, "is the highest-ranking [Pentagon] science and technology director to visit Canada."

In his presentation to DREO researchers and staff, Dr. Mark used his own experience in the development of high energy lasers to illustrate the point that it can take several decades for technologies and processes to realize applications in military systems.

Dr. Mark was a pioneer in the development of lasers in the 1960s and has championed the trials of missile defence technologies in which lasers successfully downed small missiles.

Never far behind in such matters, the Canadian military industry smells blood, and a potential profit windfall. In 2000, the Canadian Defence Industries Association produced a paper called, "The National Missile Defense Program: An Assessment of Market Opportunities for Canadian Industry."

"Canada has the capability to support the industrial requirements of the National Missile Defense program," the report concludes. "Under the existing conditions, Canada can expect, at a minimum, about $270 million in NMD-related exports over the next 15 years. With appropriate levels of government and industry action, there is a potential for that to increase to more than $1 billion in exports."

Cambridge, Ontario-based COM DEV, long a developer of space technology, was one of the corporate consultants to the Vision 2020 document that concludes: "Space systems are crucial to this nation's ability to wage war."

Given that COM DEV controls 80 per cent of the world market for the type of satellites likely to be crucial to NMD, the company would reap the benefits of potential contracts springing from a vision they helped create.

Montreal-based military simulation and training giant CAE Inc., whose systems have helped train and develop the fighting forces of many a human rights violator around the world, has also signed an agreement with leading Star Wars contractor Boeing to, according to a company release, "collaboratively evaluate and develop opportunities in missile defense...[and] to evaluate and develop systems related to air and missile threats, sensors, interceptors, and battle management/command, control, and communications systems."

Thus, while public debate is framed in the narrow "Should Canada join?" question, it misses the point that this country has already made a commitment to the overall framework that space will be the newest, most profitable medium for warfare.

If we are to stop this madness, though, we need to start learning to be more skeptical of the powerful mythmakers who have convinced millions at home and abroad that Canada is a peacemaker. And those mythmakers remain busy at work, blithely pointing out in public pronouncements, newspaper editorials, and other fora for untruths that, for example, Canada was "not involved" in the war against Iraq. Yet even the highly critical U.S. ambassador to Canada admitted that after Britain, the "Canadian contribution" was larger than the rest of the dozens of "coalition of the willing" countries combined (including those nations which, when asked, expressed surprise that they had been included on the list!).

For those trying to keep ahead of the myth machine, though, it is important to remember that for every bombing run over Iraq, there were 10 Canadians aboard the AWACS command and control targetting platforms, making sure the missiles hit the media outlets, the markets, the hospitals, the electrical systems, and other civilian infrastructure targets. And for every U.S. warship from which deadly cruise missiles and air attacks were launched, almost 1,000 Canadian troops aboard three navy vessels provided "safe escort." Military planners from Canada remained at Central Command in Qatar. And of course some three dozen Canadians were "embedded on the ground."

If George Bush can claim that one alleged al-Qaeda member spending the night in Baghdad in 1998 was sufficient to show Saddam Hussein was "involved" with Osama bin Laden, then it is difficult to see how Canada can, by those standards, claim to have sat this one out.

Canada is a country which, since 1980, has spent more than a third of a trillion dollars on warfare. The $100 million recently pledged to help rebuild Iraq, destroyed in part through the use of Canadian-made weapons systems, is a nice PR move that fails to acknowledge that the equivalent amount was spent annually since 1991 to enforce deadly sanctions against the people of Iraq.

The promise of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Provincial Police to "build order and stability" also sounds nice. But since neither organization is too familiar with the guarantees of the Charter of Rights and Free-doms, it appears their main expertise will be based on their own harassment and surveillance of Muslims in this country.

There are signs of hope, however, that we can expose the lies, confront the military violence, and transform the Canadian economy from one of war to one of peace and social equality.

Recently, demonstrators converged on the CANSEC weapons fair in Ottawa, uncovering another example, putting the lie to Canada as peacemaker. Four people were arrested and criminally charged, and plans are afoot to stage a much larger direct action at CANSEC 2004. Residents of Burlington and Hamilton, Ontario, are gearing up to expand their campaign to transform military manufacturer Wescam. Members of Block the Empire in Montreal are putting the military industries in their area on the map with a bus tour to expose Canada's own makers of weapons of mass destruction. In Toronto, Homes not Bombs subsidiary, War Research, Education and Action Project (WREAP-as ye sow, so shall ye wreap) is compiling a map of Toronto highlighting every facility in the city that has a military contract. The goal is to demilitarize the city.

There are, doubtless, other initiatives about which we have not heard. We would like to know about them. If you would like to get started on demilitarizing your community, or perhaps work on the all-volunteer Homes not Bombs Campaign to Demilitarize Canada, get in touch with us and let's discuss how we can work together on this urgent task.

As the great pacifist A.J. Muste once said, and we must keep reminding ourselves in this Orwellian time: "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."

*DREO stands for Defence Research Establishment Ottawa. It has since become DRDO, Defence Research and Development Ottawa -- new name, same space warfare mission. For more information, contact the author at: Homes not Bombs, P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0 or e-mail tasc@web.ca .